It was inevitable during a lockdown that sales of Kenya’s flower exports would dry up as buyers make fewer impulse purchases of carnations, roses and other blossoms.
According to data from the Kenya Flower Council, sales of cut flowers in overseas markets have fallen below 35 per cent of what is expected this time of the year.
This month, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, through its members, Kenya Flower Council and other flower growers, launched a “campaign of solidarity” – sending 300 floral bouquets to first responders, doctors and nurses in the UK.
A note penned by President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged the health crisis that has pummeled the revenue-generating sector.
“There have been a few moments in history when the world has faced a crisis as far-reaching and consequential as this,” he wrote. “It is exactly at moments such as this that we must display our humanity, perseverance and hope. Whatever the adversity, no matter the foe, we shall triumph together. We stand united. Tuko Pamoja. From Kenya with love – H E Uhuru Kenyatta.”
Despite the depressed sales, flower growers must still care for the flowers otherwise the plant deteriorates and will not bloom in the future. Labor is still required to perform these tasks so that once the pandemic passes, production and sales can return to expected levels.
The principal export of the Netherlands for over 200 years, flowers today are grown in other regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, and are challenging the Netherlands’ traditional hold on the industry.
Cut flowers are now Kenya’s second largest export after tea, contributing around 1% of the country’s GDP. They are also one of the country’s largest source of employment, with over 100,000 people working directly in the flower industry and an estimated two million indirectly.
“Flowers are therapeutic and are a great way of expressing our appreciation to the gallant men and women working round the clock to take care of the sick,” said Bimal Kantaria, managing director of Elgon Kenya. “With this campaign we want to send a message of hope and solidarity as we work to ensure our brothers and sisters in the flower industry do not lose their jobs during these trying times and our highly acclaimed flower sector remains afloat.”